For every transferee, there are a few crucial tasks to take care of ASAP when they’ve landed in their new British Columbia city. Getting a public health insurance card searching for housing top the list. For those who wish to drive while living here, so does obtaining a British Columbia driver’s license.
Where to go and what you’ll need to bring
If you hold a valid driver’s license from another country or province, you’re free to use it for the first 90 days following your landing in British Columbia, but we strongly recommend that you make an appointment as soon as you arrive. For new residents, to switch your driver’s license to a British Columbia Driver’s license you must apply in person at an ICBC Driver’s Licensing Office.
Some lucky transferees come from a country with which British Columbia has a reciprocal agreement (for example, from France, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland). If you’re from one of these countries, and you have at least two years of driving experience, you will be able to simply exchange your license right away when you go to a licensing office. When you go, bring two pieces of accepted identification that show your legal name, date of birth and signature. Make sure you also bring your original valid driver’s license, and an English-language copy of your driving record. If your record is in another language, you’ll get it translated for a fee by an approved translator.
If you’re not from one of the countries that has a reciprocal agreement with British Columbia, in addition to applying you need to take a knowledge test and a road test. In both cases, there are additional conditions in some cases. For example, if you are older than 80 years, or have ongoing health conditions, in which case you may be asked to complete a medical exam, and have it processed at an ICBC office.
If you hold an expired driver’s license, there are other formalities for obtaining your valid BC license, depending on the length it has been expired. See them here.
Driving license fees vary according to the application requirements and the type of license: a five-year British Columbia driver’s license renewal costs $75. The knowledge test costs $15. Road tests cost from $35 to $50, depending on the class of the license you are pursuing. Medical exam processing fees are $28.
There are also different skills tests for getting a motorcycle license, which have fees. The license itself costs $50. If you are new to riding a motorcycle, you will need to pass a knowledge test ($15) to receive your motorcycle learner’s license, which you’ll use for at least 30 days before you are eligible to receive your full license.
New drivers and the graduated licensing process
New to driving in a new city? Don’t worry! If you are a new driver, the process of obtaining a full driver’s license is straightforward. It does, however, take some time, but if you’re determined to drive, you can earn your British Columbia Driver’s license by going through the “graduated drivers licensing” (GDL) process that will get you on the road with learner’s permits before you qualify for your full license.
You will start the GDL with one form of learner’s license (L ), move on to the novice license (N), and then receive your full driver’s license. ICBC agents can assist new drivers over the phone with the necessary steps.
To get your L-class learner’s license, you are required to be 19 years of age, or if you are younger than 19 years, have guardian consent. You must take and pass a knowledge test ($15) at an ICBC office, and pass a vision screening test. With this license, when driving you’ll need to be supervised by a passenger who is 25 years of age or older, display an “L” decal on the back of your car, have a zero blood-alcohol level, drive with only one other passenger, you cannot use cellphone in the vehicle and you cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m.
After 12 months of supervised practice, you can apply for your N license ($10). To receive this, you’ll need to take your first road test (you can book online or over the phone. Try and book long in advance! The office is busy). To take the road test, you’ll bring a safe vehicle, valid ID, valid insurance and registration documents, and the fee. When you pass, you’ll get your N license. With the N license, you are required to drive with the N symbol on the back of your car. When driving, you must maintain a zero blood-alcohol content, use no electronic devices, and drive with only one other passenger.
After these two years of driving with L and N licenses, you can take (and pass!) the Class 5 road test to get your full British Columbia driver’s license. You can usually book your road test online or over the phone. Remember to bring accepted ID and money for the $50 fee.
You can speed up the process of getting your first full Class 5 license by taking a government-approved driver’s education course.
Those are the basics of getting your British Columbia driver’s license. Remember, don’t delay! Start the process within a few days of your arrival, and stay safe out there on the open road.
Read more about driving in Canada:
- Preparing a Car for Winter in Quebec
- Weighing your options for having a car in Toronto
- 8 Things to do during your first days in Vancouver